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How to Address Malfunctioning Electrical Outlets

Problems with the circuit or a sub-panel typically require professional electrical service, but issues with an outlet can often be solved quickly and inexpensively by the homeowner. This is because basic electrical outlets are simple and don’t have any moving parts that wear out. Most issues can be addressed in the outlet or in the service panel.

In most areas, homeowners can repair or replace outlets without applying for a permit. But before beginning repairs, it’s important to turn off the circuit breaker on the service panel. Use a voltage tester to check that the outlet doesn’t have any power running to it.

Depending on the kind of electrical repair you’ll be doing, you’ll need a flat-head screwdriver, a Phillips head screwdriver, replacement outlet, GFCI tester, and voltage tester.

Repairing an Electrical Outlet
For GFCI outlets, press the reset button using the tip of a flat-head screwdriver. Then, go to the electrical service panel to see if the circuit breaker controlling the outlet has been flipped off. If the breaker is flipped off, flip it in the opposite direction and turn back again in the correct position.

Next, check all upstream outlets on the circuit between the affected outlet and the service panel. If there are any GFCI outlets on the circuit, they will affect all downstream outlets. You may need to reset or replace the GFCI outlet.

Remove the faceplate of the malfunctioning outlet and check to see if the wires are properly connected to the outlet and that all pigtailed wires are connected to the underwire nuts.

Non-GFCI outlets rarely fail, but when they do, they should be replaced.

Fixing a Warm or Sparking Outlet
Begin by unplugging all cords connected to the malfunctioning outlet. Then, remove the outlet cover and the outlet. See if all the wire ends are firmly connected and reconnect any loose wires. If the receptacle seems damaged or worn out, replace it.

It’s important to follow safety precautions when making any DIY electrical repairs. For maximum safety, however, call Tucker Hill for professional electrical service.

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